And in those days they yet knew not of 911 nor cared about global warming, fake news, or electric motorcycles. They cared then only of being “sandwiched on a dance floor between two hot, curvy co-eds,” and it was good, and so was the FXDX twenty years ago. And so it was written.
Los Angeles, August 20, 1999 — You can’t rest on your laurels, and there’s no motorcycle company that understands that better than Harley-Davidson.Yes, yes, we can already hear you screaming sundry invectives and vituperations at your computer screen, protesting that lead with red-faced fury. But we stand by it, partly because we believe it and partly because we find it amusing to receive flame mails.
There is some truth in there, however. Critics will cite Harley as the one company that not only rests its products on laurels, but manufactures t
hem from laurels as well. But there’s a difference between depending solely on brand identity to sell your goods, a strategy which will always fail as soon as “bigger, better, faster” comes along (for those in the know, look at the spanking SyQuest took when confronted with the Zip drive), and the development/maintenance of market share through the application of design and marketing principles drawn from tradition and past successes.Yawn. Point please. The point is, how do you connect a colorful past to an uncertain future when faced with difficult-to-gauge millennial expectations?
With the FXDX, that’s how. Built on the Dyna Glide platform, which means dual external shocks doing spring duty for a dual-point rubber mounted Twin Cam 88, the Motor Company has flown in the face of detractors by making a stylish cruiser that handles with authority while putting some powerful ponies to the pavement.The Twin Cam 88, a 1450 cc Evo-zilla, is a revelation in a sporty cruiser platform. Sure, the engine has proven itself capable of hauling around an Electra Glide’s bulk, but it’s in exploiting the Twin Cam’s willingness to rev that makes the FXDX such a fun ride. Those of you used to short-shifting will be missing out if you don’t start riding the redline, especially through the squiggly stuff, an area where this cruiser excels.
In beefing up the components of the Twin Cam, Harley made an engine that pulls strongly all the way up to 5400 rpm. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re used to shifting in the low 3000s on an Evo, that’s a lot of room to go exploring.Wheelbase is extended a smidge on the Sport to 63.88 inches from the Super Glide’s standard 62.5 inches, lending a little extra stability, but with 28 degrees of rake the Dyna’s hardly a candidate for Chopper of the Year. It is, however, Harley’s top choice for the long and winding roads, and with a nice compliant suspension that is a workable compromise between plush and sporty. It took a little effort to toss this mount into a turn, but once there it behaved well, holding the line obediently, and with plenty of curve-soaking ground clearance. Mid-corner rough stuff could inspire a little Chassis Bump Boogie — not exactly “confidence-inspiring”, whatever that means.
Unfortunately, the 1999 FXDX brakes are still Harley brakes. Improvements are in the works for 2000, but the new brakes, which are said to be excellent, won’t be able to be retro-fitted just yet, and for now you’ve got to watch yourself on the ’99 FXDX when going deep into a hole. Late brakers will likely be rendered simply “late” if they try it too much. For standard cruising/street duty the 11.5-inch triple discs are better than two, however, and they do their duty, but don’t get into any stoppie competitions, because you’ll be humiliated. The rear brake is functional, does its job well, but it’s a ‘government’ worker. It doesn’t do more than necessary.
Rider accommodations are sporty, meaning they’re not overly comfy. The dirt-style bars seem just a little far forward and a little too wide on the stock bike — not unreasonably so, but enough to make you feel it on hundred-mile highway stretches. The leg positioning is nice, though, and highway pegs come standard so you can stretch out those muscles when you’re not swerving through the passes. Mirrors perform splendidly, with less vibration than you’d expect given a 45-degree V-twin.
Harley was feeling magnanimous and gave us two Super Glide Sports, one bone stock and one tricked out with Harley aftermarket gear. Both were black and both were beautiful by everyone’s account, evaluators and non-riders alike. This is an area where Harley-Davidson already has a distinct edge and the FXDX does right in exploiting the style factor.
Oddly, not everyone agreed that the heavily accessorized FXDX was the nicest, with some distinct differences in opinion about Harley’s new cafe quarter fairing especially. Nothing really beats a Harley’s readiness for customization, though. The whole package, from the curved-to-fit-your-hand grips to the billet footpegs to the custom seat showed that this was an excellent platform to combine a love of leaning with a love of gleaming and customization in general. And everyone agreed that the blacked-out motor and the bike’s sleek, sporty lines were, well, sexy.
In fact, there is a direct line of progression from one of the staff riding the bike to a college class to his being sandwiched on a dance floor a week later between two hot, curvy co-eds. Once again, the FXDX demonstrates its ability in the curves. Not many motorcycles can make claims like that, but the FXDX can, and for many motogeeks that’s reason enough to violate posted speed limits in getting to the nearest Harley dealer for the purpose of laying down a deposit.
The accessorized bike had free-flowing, Screaming Eagle Dyna slip-ons as well, and aftermarket cans are something from which most Harleys vastly benefit, and this bike was no exception. Throttle response was impressively improved once the two 725 cc cylinders were given a little more room to breathe, about 16% more than stock, although these slip-ons gave the bike the hiccups on cold start-ups. If you buy these or any performance muffler, you might want to re-adjust the cold idle. Still, this is an essential upgrade for new owners.
Everyone that rode this bike pretty much fell in love, with the way it looked on the boulevard, the way it handled, the way the big twin finally could push down on the asphalt with some fat authorit-eye. It’s an endearing ride. And that in light of the feeling that Harleys can be a little deceptive sometimes.
Yes, deceptive. You can run down to your dealer and plunk a hunk of dough down on a Heritage Springer Softail and then get yourself a leather jacket with frills. And then you can run down to the nearest burger stand that dates back to 1952 and hang out with a Camel burning out of your mouth and when some hot number strolls by you can lean back on your bike’s seat and say something like, “Hey baaayybay.”But you still won’t have a ’48 Panhead, that jacket won’t really be very road-worn, you might get cancer from the cigarette, and if you’re sixty pounds overweight well, that hot number might come up as a big zero. But thousands still flock to dealerships across the country anyway, looking to cash in on the fashion of it all, even if fashion is all that it is. It doesn’t take too many years to figure out that honesty isn’t at the core of fashion.
But the FXDX is what it pretends to be: A fun, sporty cruiser that performs pretty much as promised and is seductive without being overstated. This bike isn’t just about fashion, and it’s not about resting on Harley’s laurels. It’s about sex and big twin engines for the 21st century. Looking for a sporty cruiser? Buy this.
Model: 1999 FXDX
Price: $12,995.00 (USD)
Engine: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 45° V-twin, carbureted
Compression ratio: 8.9:1
Bore and Stroke (in.): 3.75 x 4.00
Displacement: 88 ci (1450 cc)
Trail: 4.1 in (104 mm)
Wheelbase: 63.88 in (1622 mm)
Seat Height: 27.0 in (689 mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.9 gal (0.5 gal rsrv)
Claimed Dry Weight: 614 lbs (279 kg)